The New England Patriots have baffled countless analysts and fans by signing two more running backs this year.
While Damien Harris has just completed a career year, Rhamondre Stevenson is looking to build a promising rookie yearand James White returning to a two-year contract, it seemed redundant to add two rookies to an already crowded backfield.
Some would argue that was a poor use of resources given the Patriots lack depth in the secondary and on their offensive line.
As always, it would be foolish to doubt Bill Belichick, who always seems to be one step ahead (usually two) over the competition. With that in mind, was the decision to sign Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris on Day 3 taken as a way to prepare for the future?
In his last mailbag for NESNwriter Zack Cox raised the possibility of the Patriots trading Damien Harris before the regular season.
Could the Patriots trade Damien Harris this summer?
Here’s what Cox said in response to a Patriots fan who is curious about the future of the New England running room.
“Point guard Damien Harris is entering a contract year, and the Patriots seemed to be preparing for his eventual departure by drafting Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. If both rookies impress this summer, New England could even consider trading Harris, who could command more on the open market next spring than she is willing to pay.
Cox brings up a great point about Harris’ contract, which has surprisingly flown under the radar this offseason. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, there is no indication that Harris and the Pats are engaged in negotiations for a long-term contract. We can’t even say whether either side has started talks.
Given Belichicks’ track record of not paying running backs, Strong and Harris’ performances during training camp could end up determining the elder Harris’ short-term future in Foxborough.
If the team is confident they can replace Stevenson, wouldn’t it make sense to cash in on Harris before he joins free agency next offseason?
After a career year in which he finished 10th in the NFL with 929 rushing yards, second with 15 rushing touchdowns and fifth in yards per attempt among guards who have recorded 200 carries, Harris could have played out of the Patriots’ price range.
Of course, Mac Jones is another variable to consider. With so many moving pieces on the offensive line, should the Pats risk offloading their most important offensive piece behind the second-year QB just to get a solid return on investment?
It certainly makes for an interesting conversation.
Ultimately, however, Harris is too important to what New England does offensively for the front office to even consider trading him. We need to know more about Stevenson (is he ready to take on a starring role?) and Strong Jr. and Harris before we even consider the idea of trading the 25-year-old.